March 7, 2013

Garlic has long had a reputation as a cure-all for many ailments. Although not all of them have been substantiated by scientific evidence, there is a wealth of solid data pointing to garlic as one of our most versatile natural substances we can consume to promote good health. It is rich in alliin, which is quite odorless. Once it is crushed or minced, alliin converts to allicin, which has the characteristic odor and taste we associate with garlic.

It is allicin that gives us many of garlic's therapeutic properties. The reason why we get that garlic smell on our breath or from our skin after we consume it is eliminated not through the intestines, as would be normal with most food, but through the lungs and skin. If you or the people around you find the smell of garlic on your breath offensive after eating that delicious garlic-spiced food, there are some things you can do. The best antidote for eliminating the smell is chewing on fresh mint, which will also leave your breath, well, minty fresh. Parsley also works to mask the odor, but doesn't help the breath as much.

Studies have shown that garlic consumption reduces blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, heart disease and stroke. Its abilities as a blood thinner assist in these conditions, as well as thrombophlebitis, a condition caused by blood clotting in the veins of the legs. Garlic has also been known to kill yeast and virus organisms, bacteria, and some types of parasites.

So now that we understand how important garlic is, what are the best ways to incorporate it into our diet? As mentioned earlier, it offers the most advantages when it is chopped or crushed. Because of its power, it can easily destroy a dish if used improperly, which makes many people who cook leery of using it. But using some simple guidelines, there is nothing to fear by using this healthy food to enhance many dishes. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Raw garlic. In this form its flavor is the strongest, and should be used as a seasoning rather than an ingredient. This is considered the healthiest form, with garlic tablets the least healthy.

• Cooked garlic. Used in cooking it adds flavor to any dish. Roasting is a favorite; after roasting just smash it and add it to mashed potatoes, stir it into soups, stir it into risotto, or add to a little butter and spread it on a toasted English muffin.

• Burnt garlic. Be careful when you sauté garlic not to burn it. It will ruin your meal, as it will have an intensely bitter taste.

• Dried garlic. Cooking with garlic can be much more convenient if you buy it in powders or minced. Is it as good for you? Actually, we haven't been able to find many tests that prove its health benefits. But the experts agree that although powdered garlic has some health benefits, it will not provide the same benefits as freshly crushed garlic.

• Garlic with wine. If you prepare a dish that is quite rich with garlic, the wine should be bold, either red or a citrusy wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. If you are light on the garlic, such as a clove in a stew, you'll hardly notice it.

If you are getting into cooking, garlic should be one item you learn about and use regularly.

Garlic has been proven to provide numerous benefits for your healthiness, and it is a very versatile spice for cooking. Read more about meal and meal preparation on our site Rich Carroll is a writer and very interested in healthy cooking.

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